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The Ayoluengo field, commonly cited as Spain’s only onshore oil field, was discovered in June 1964. Today, 50 years later, the field is still active, with an average production of some 100 barrels oil per day and a total cumulated oil production of nearly 17 million barrels of oil.

Explorer Historical Highlight

May 14, 2014, Marks the 100th anniversary of the initial petroleum discovery at Turner Valley. The field sits at the leading edge of the Foothills Belt of the Rocky Mountains, just to the southwest of Calgary, Canada.


The Croatian Hydrocarbons Agency used AAPG’s Annual Convention and Exhibition (ACE) in Houston last month as an opportunity to formally announce that the country’s first offshore license round opened April 2 of this year.


When it comes to U.S. energy policy, there arguably is no topic that creates more heated debate than that of the federal OCS (Outer Continental Shelf) leasing program.


The petroleum trap for the Athabasca oil sands has remained elusive because it was destroyed by flexural loading of the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin during the Late Cretaceous and Paleocene. The original trap extent is preserved because the oil was biodegraded to immobile bitumen as the trap was being charged during the Late Cretaceous. Using well and outcrop data, it is possible to reconstruct the Cretaceous overburden horizons beyond the limit of present-day erosion. Sequential restoration of the reconstructed horizons reveals a megatrap at the top of the Wabiskaw-McMurray reservoir in the Athabasca area at 84 Ma (late Santonian). The megatrap is a four-way anticline with dimensions 285 x 125 km (177 x 78 mi) and maximum amplitude of 60 m (197 ft). The southeastern margin of the anticline shows good conformance to the bitumen edge for 140 km (87 mi). To the northeast of the anticline, bitumen is present in a shallower trap domain in what is interpreted to be an onlap trap onto the Canadian Shield; leakage along the onlap edge is indicated by tarry bitumen outliers preserved in basement rocks farther to the northeast. Peripheral trap domains that lie below the paleospillpoint, in northern, southern, and southwestern Athabasca, and Wabasca, are interpreted to represent a late charge of oil that was trapped by bitumen already emplaced in the anticline and the northeastern onlap trap. This is consistent with kimberlite intrusions containing live bitumen, which indicate that the northern trap domain was charged not before 78 Ma. The trap restoration has been tested using bitumen-water contact well picks. The restored picks fall into groups that are consistent both with the trap domains determined from the top reservoir restoration and the conceptual charge model in which the four-way anticline was filled first, followed by the northeastern onlap trap, and then the peripheral trap domains.


The Tarim Basin is one of the most important hydrocabon-bearing evaporite basins in China. Four salt-bearing sequences, the Middle and Lower Cambrian, the Mississippian, the Paleogene, and the Neogene, have various thickness and areal distribution. They are important detachment layers and intensely affect the structural deformation in the basin. The Kuqa depression is a subordinate structural unit with abundant salt structures in the Tarim Basin. Salt overthrusts, salt pillows, salt anticlines, salt diapirs, and salt-withdrawal basins are predominant in the depression. Contraction that resulted from orogeny played a key function on the formation of salt structures. Growth strata reveal that intense salt structural deformation in the Kuqa depression occurred during the Himalayan movement from Oligocene to Holocene, with early structural deformation in the north and late deformation in the south. Growth sequences also record at least two phases of salt tectonism. In the Yingmaili, Tahe, and Tazhong areas, low-amplitude salt pillows are the most common salt structures, and these structures are commonly accompanied by thrust faults. The faulting and uplifting of basement blocks controlled the location of salt structures. The differences in the geometries of salt structures in different regions show that the thickness of the salt sequences has an important influence on the development of salt-cored detachment folds and related thrust faults in the Tarim Basin.

Salt sequences and salt structures in the Tarim Basin are closely linked to hydrocarbon accumulations. Oil and gas fields have been discovered in the subsalt, intrasalt, and suprasalt strata. Salt deformation has created numerous potential traps, and salt sequences have provided a good seal for the preservation of hydrocarbon accumulations. Large- and small-scale faults related with salt structures have also given favorable migration pathways for oil and gas. When interpreting seismic profiles, special attention needs to be paid to the clastic and carbonate interbeds within the salt sequences because they may lead to incorrect structural interpretation. In the Tarim Basin, the subsalt anticlinal traps are good targets for hydrocarbon exploration.

The Heidrun field, located on the Halten Terrace of the mid-Norwegian continental shelf, was one of the first giant oil fields found in the Norwegian Sea. Traditional reservoir intervals in the Heidrun field lie within the Jurassic synrift sequence. Most Norwegian continental shelf fields have been producing from these Jurassic reservoirs for the past 30 yr. Production has since declined in these mature fields, but recently, exploration for new reservoirs has resurged in this region. The Jurassic rifted fault blocks form a narrow continental shelf in Norway, thereby greatly reducing the areal extent for exploration and development within existing fields. As the rift axis is approached farther offshore, these Jurassic reservoirs become very deep, too risky to drill, and uneconomical. This risk has prompted exploration in more recent years of the shallower Cretaceous, postrift stratigraphic succession. Cretaceous turbidites have been found in the Norwegian and North Seas, and the discovery of the Agat field in the Norwegian North Sea confirms the existence of a working petroleum system capable of charging Cretaceous reservoirs. These Cretaceous reservoirs were deposited as slope- and basin-floor fans within a series of underfilled rifted deeps along the Norwegian continental shelf and are thought to be sourced from the localized erosion of Jurassic rifted highs. We use three-dimensional seismic and well data to document the geomorphology of a deep-water, Lower Cretaceous wedge (Cromer Knoll Group) within the hanging wall of a rift-related half graben formed on the Halten Terrace offshore mid-Norway. Seismic attribute extractions taken within this Lower Cretaceous wedge reveal the presence of several lobate to elongated bodies that seem to cascade over fault-bounded terraces associated with rifted structures. These high-amplitude, elongated bodies are interpreted as deep-water sedimentary conduits that are time equivalent to the Cretaceous basin-floor fans in more distal parts of the basin to the west. These half-graben fills have the potential to contain high-quality Cretaceous sandstones that might represent a potential new reservoir interval within the Heidrun field.

West Edmond field, located in central Oklahoma, is one of the largest oil accumulations in the Silurian–Devonian Hunton Group in this part of the Anadarko Basin. Production from all stratigraphic units in the field exceeds 170 million barrels of oil (MMBO) and 400 billion cubic feet of gas (BCFG), of which approximately 60 MMBO and 100 BCFG have been produced from the Hunton Group. Oil and gas are stratigraphically trapped to the east against the Nemaha uplift, to the north by a regional wedge-out of Hunton strata, and by intraformational diagenetic traps. Hunton Group reservoirs are the Bois d'Arc and Frisco Limestones, with lesser production from the Chimneyhill subgroup, Haragan Shale, and Henryhouse Formation.

Hunton Group cores from three wells that were examined petrographically indicate that complex diagenetic relations influence permeability and reservoir quality. Greatest porosity and permeability are associated with secondary dissolution in packstones and grainstones, forming hydrocarbon reservoirs. The overlying Devonian–Mississippian Woodford Shale is the major petroleum source rock for the Hunton Group in the field, based on one-dimensional and four-dimensional petroleum system models that were calibrated to well temperature and Woodford Shale vitrinite reflectance data. The source rock is marginally mature to mature for oil generation in the area of the West Edmond field, and migration of Woodford oil and gas from deeper parts of the basin also contributed to hydrocarbon accumulation.

Jurassic deposition in the Maghrebian tethys was governed by eustasy and rifting. Two periods were delineated: (1) a carbonate shelf (Rhaetian–early Pliensbachian) and (2) a platform-basin complex (early Pliensbachian–Callovian). The carbonate shelf evolved in four stages, generating three sedimentary sequences, J1 to J3, separated by boundary sea level falls, drawdown, exposure, and local erosion. Sediment facies bear evidence of sea level rises and falls. Lateral changes in lithofacies indicate shoaling and deepening upward during the Sinemurian. A major pulse of rifting with an abrupt transition from carbonate shelf to pelagic basin environments of deposition marks the upper boundary of the lower Pliensbachian carbonate shelf deposits. This rifting episode with brittle fractures broke up the Rhaetian–early Pliensbachian carbonate shelf and has created a network of grabens, half grabens, horsts, and stacked ramps. Following this episode, a relative sea level rise led to pelagic sedimentation in the rift basins with local anoxic environments that also received debris shed from uplifted ramp crests. Another major episode spanning the whole early Pliensbachian–Bajocian is suggested by early brecciation, mass flows, slumps, olistolites, erosion, pinch-outs, and sedimentary prisms. A later increase in the rates of drifting marked a progress toward rift cessation during the Late Jurassic. These Jurassic carbonates with detrital deposits and black shales as the source rocks in northeastern Tunisia may define interesting petroleum plays (pinch-out flanking ramps, onlaps, and structurally upraised blocks sealed inside grabens). Source rock maturation and hydrocarbon migration began early in the Cretaceous and reached a maximum during the late Tortonian–Pliocene Atlassic orogeny.

A three-dimensional seismic data set and published data from exploration wells were used to reconstruct the tectonostratigraphic evolution of the Mandal High area, southern North Sea, Norway. The Mandal High is an elongated southeast-northwest–trending horst. Three fault families in the Lower Permian sequence, inherited from the basement structural grain of Caledonian origin, are interpreted: (1) a north-northwest–south-southeast–striking fault family, (2) a northeast-southwest–striking fault family, and (3) a near east-west–striking fault family. In addition, an east-southeast–west-northwest–striking fault family (4) that formed during Late Jurassic rifting and was reverse reactivated in the Late Cretaceous is interpreted. We suggest that inversion occurred because of small dextral motion along fault family 1. A final fault family (5) displays various strike orientations and is associated with salt movements.

Seven chronostratigraphic sequences defined by well data and recognized on three-dimensional seismic data are interpreted and mapped: Early Permian rifting in a continental environment; Late Permian deposition of the Zechstein salt and flooding; Triassic continental rifting; uplift and erosion in the Middle Jurassic with deposition of shallow-marine and deltaic sediments; rifting and transgression in a deep-marine environment during the Late Jurassic; a post-rift phase in a marine environment during the Early Cretaceous; and flooding and deposition of the Chalk Group in the Late Cretaceous. An eighth sequence was interpreted—Paleogene–Neogene—but has not been studied in detail. This sequence is dominated by progradation from the east and basin subsidence. Well and seismic data over the Mandal High reveal that large parts of the high were subaerially exposed from Late Permian to Late Jurassic or Early Cretaceous, providing a local source of sediments for adjacent basins.

Similar to the Utsira High, where several large hydrocarbon discoveries have been recently seen, the Mandal High might consist of a set of petroleum plays, including fractured crystalline basement and shallow-marine systems along the flanks of the high, thereby opening up future exploration opportunities.

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